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  • Investigating Design: A Review of Forty Years of Design ResearchAuthor(s): Nigan BayazitSource: Design Issues, Vol. 20, No. 1 (Winter, 2004), pp. 16-29Published by: The MIT PressStable URL: .Accessed: 13/05/2011 11:57

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  • Investigating Design: A Review of Forty Years of Design Research Nigan Bayazit

    What Is Design Research? This paper will start to answer the above question with the definition of L. Bruce Archer: "Design research is systematic inquiry whose goal is knowledge of, or in, the embodiment of configuration, composi- tion, structure, purpose, value, and meaning in man-made things and systems." 1

    In this paper, looking at design research from the design methodology and design science perspectives restricts our view in a sense that is necessary for such a topic. Design research tries to answer the obligations of design to the humanities:

    A Design research is concerned with the physical embodiment of man-made things, how these things perform their jobs, and how they work.

    B Design research is concerned with construction as a human activity, how designers work, how they think, and how they carry out design activity.

    C Design research is concerned with what is achieved at the end of a purposeful design activity, how an artificial thing appears, and what it means.

    D Design research is concerned with the embodiment of configurations.

    E Design research is a systematic search and acquisition of knowledge related to design and design activity.

    The objectives of design research are the study, research, and inves- tigation of the artificial made by human beings, and the way these activities have been directed either in academic studies or manu- facturing organizations. As Simon indicates, we can call overall activities of design research, "the sciences of the artificial." 2 Some of the art, craft, and design people call what they do for art and design "research." That kind of research is not the subject of this paper. An artist's practicing activities when creating a work of art or a craftwork cannot be considered research. Yet it is possible for an external observer to do research into how an artist is working on his or her work of art to make a contribution to the common knowledge. These can be observable phenomena. As Christopher Frayling3 says, "Research through art and design is less straightforward, but still

    1 L. B. Archer, "A View of the Nature of the Design Research" in Design: Science: Method, R. Jacques, J. A. Powell, eds. (Guilford, Surrey: IPC Business Press Ltd., 1981), 30-47. L. Bruce Archer gave this definition at the Portsmouth DRS confer- ence.

    2 H. A. Simon, The Sciences of the Artificial(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, Third Edition, 1999).

    3 C. Frayling, "Research in Art and Design," Royal College of Art Research Papers 1 :1 (1993/4).

    ( 2004 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 16 Design Issues: Volume 20, Number 1 Winter 2004

  • identifiable and visible," consisting of materials research, develop- mental work, and action research. Architects and engineers have applied these definitions of design research since the 1960s.

    All design research reports are related to the history or past activity of the subject area under study. Studies of the present are part of the past because every research report has to prove its roots in the past.4 I will try to identify some instances of the state of the art from some research papers as well as books on design research. This paper will provide a summary of design research history concerning design methods and scientific approaches to design.

    Many writers5 have pointed to De Stijl in the early 1920s as an example of the desire to "scientize" design. The roots of design research in many disciplines since the 1920s are found within the Bauhaus, which was established as the methodological foundation for design education. After the Bauhaus closed, most of the staff moved to the U.S., Britain, or Russia, where they were well accepted and took the Bauhaus tradition to other institutions. Moholy-Nagy moved to the U.S., where he finally became the director of the "New Bauhaus," which became the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1949. Gropius went to Harvard, and brought a new line of thought to that side of the U.S. Le Corbusier described the house as an objectively designed "machine for living." He envisioned a desire to produce works of art and design based on objectivity and rationality. During this same period, Buckminster Fuller sought to develop a "design science" that would obtain maxi- mum human advantage from a minimal use of energy and materials. In 1929, he called his concept of design "Dymaxion" or "4-D."

    Role of Design Methods in Design Research Main sources for the history of design methods and design research can be found in various publications. Some historical reviews of design methods have been written by Geoffrey Broadbent,6 Nigel Cross,7,8'9 Vladimir Hubka and Ernst Eder,10 Nigan Bayazit,11 Margolin and Buchanan,12 at various conferences.13 14, 15, 16

    Horst Rittel17 made the following statement in an interview: The reason for the emergence of design methods in the late '50s and early '60s was the idea that the ways in which the large-scale NASA and military-type technological problems had been approached might profitably be transferred into civilian or other design areas.

    After World War II, the new techniques that had been used in the design and development of arms and wartime equipment, and the methods and techniques used in developing many new inventions, attracted many designers. Creativity methods were developed mainly in the U.S. in response to the launching of the first satellite,

    4 As Jacques Barzun and Henry F. Graf indi- cated in their book, Modem Arastirmaci (translated into Turkish from the Modern Researcher), (Ankara: TUBITAK, 1993).

    5 Nigel Cross, "Designerly Ways of Knowing: Design Discipline Versus Design Science" in Design Plus Research, Proceedings of the Politenico di Milano Conference, Silvia Picazzaro, Amilton Arruda, and Dijon De Morales, eds. (May 18-20, 2000), 43-48.

    6 G. Broadbent, "The Development of Design Methods," Design Methods and Theories 13:1 (1979): 41-45.

    7 Nigel Cross has several publications in various conferences in "The Recent History of Post-Industrial Design Methods" in R. Hamilton, ed., Design and Industry(London: The Design Council, 1980).

    8 N. Cross, Developments in Design Methodo/ogy(Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, 1984).

    9 N. Cross, "A History of Design Methodology" in Design Methodology and Relationship with Science, NATO ASI Series, M. J. De Vries, N. Cross, and D. P. Grant, eds. (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1993).

    10 V. Hubka, E. Eder, Design Science (London: Springer Verlag, 1996).

    11 N. Bayazit, Endistri Orunleri Tasariminda ve Mimarlikta Tasarlama Metotlarina Girif (Introduction to Design Methods in Industrial Product Design and Architecture), [In Turkish] (Istanbul: Literatur Yayinevi 1994).

    12 V. Margolin and R. Buchanan, The Idea of Design: A Design Issues Reader (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1995).

    13 Doctoral Education in Design: Proceedings of the Ohio Conference (8-11 October, 1998).

    14 In 1986, the Design Methods Group celebrated its twentieth anniversary with some special reviews in its journal. D. Grant edited the anniversary issue of Design Methods and Theories Joumal of DMG 20:2 (1986).

    Design Issues: Volume 20, Number 1 Winter 2004 17

  • the Soviet Union's "Sputnik," which caused the American govern- ment to free up quite a lot of money to do research on creativity. 18,19,20

    During the 1960s, it became evident that designers no longer could rely solely on their ability to focus upon the product as the center of a design task. Due to technological developments and the implications of mass production, interest had to be shifted from hardware and form to the consideration of human needs. This required a new look at the subject of design methods.21

    First Generation Design Methods The influence of systems analysis and systems theory on design established the grounds for the foundation of "systematic design methods," which Horst Rittel22 later called "first generation design methods." The Conference on Design Methods, which was organized by J. C. Jones and D. G. Thornley,23 was the first scientific approach to design methods in England. The methods proposed at that confer- ence were simplistic in charact


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